For 35 minutes of a 48 minute game Tuesday night, the Clippers played the Jazz even, in a building that has been a complete torture chamber for the team. (A Mike Dunleavy coached Clippers team has still never won in the Delta Center.)
With 1:49 to go in the third, Elton Brand got a put back that tied the score at 72. When Ronnie Brewer converted a three point play with 1:05 to go in the period, the 75-72 lead matched the largest of the game for the Jazz. So what the hell happened? How did this go from a well-played, tight battle between two division leaders to a Jazz-beat-the-Clippers-in-Utah-again blow out? Well, the Clippers folded. As Joey Tribiani would say, they 'folded like a cheap hooker after she was punched in the stomach.'
It started with some questionable calls. How many times do you see the 5-second violation called? And when Elton Brand gets that upset (why didn't Violet Palmer T him up, aside from the easy answer that she's a terrible ref?), you KNOW it was a clean block. Much has been made of the Clippers 10 minute stretch without a field goal. But in the final 1:49 of the 3rd, as Utah was scoring 7 straight, the Clippers didn't score a point, and didn't even ATTEMPT a field goal - 2 turnovers, 2 missed free throws and a botched final possession by Livingston (not the first time we've seen that this season).
By the time Millsap sent Livingston's shot to halfcourt for a layup the other way (arguably a goal tend, by the way), the Jazz had a 17 point lead on an 18-1 run in 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes the Clippers were 0-3 from the field, 1-4 from the line, and committed 6 turnovers.
Still, 'fold' is a little harsh isn't it? Well, I would hesitate to use that word, if MD and EB had not each used it in post game interviews, as reported by Jason Reid in the LA Times:
"I don't think we gave up, but we didn't play like this was a game to determine the best record in the NBA," said Elton Brand, who scored 16 points. "The effort just wasn't there at times. We had stretches where we hit 'em with a good shot, but then they hit us back. After that, we kind of folded."
We didn't give up, but we folded... interesting distinction there Elton.
It's a long season. At the end, a loss is a loss, whether you lose by one at the buzzer or 'fold' late in the third. But to have your asses handed to you by Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap and Mehmut Okur (that's who was on the floor when the Jazz took over - 1 starter, 2 rookies - aren't the Clippers supposed to have the best bench in the league?) is embarassing.
And we have to wait until Saturday when the Sixers get to town before we can get past it.